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How to Identify Positive & Negative Wires for a Chandelier

David Sandoval

Installing or repairing a chandelier is a breeze if you have a chandelier wiring kit that comes complete with a chandelier wiring diagram, but sometimes you're not that lucky. Figuring out which wire is safe to touch and which will shock you is the first step and it is not a difficult one.

How to Identify Positive & Negative Wires for a Chandelier

Chandeliers can add elegant class or a sort of funky grace to any room, but chandelier installation is not always done by experts. If you need to repair or replace a chandelier or are installing a new one, knowing which wires are live and which ones are safe to work with is the first step in completing your project safely.

Facts About Chandelier Wiring

The electricity in a hanging chandelier works the same way it does in several lights wired parallel to each other, such as certain kinds of track lighting. Unlike DC-powered lights, a standard electric chandelier does not have a positive wire and a negative wire; it instead has a hot wire and a neutral wire. The hot wire in an AC electrical circuit is the powered wire, whereas the neutral wire acts as a return path that is similar in nature to the negative wire in a conventional DC circuit.

While the lights in a chandelier might work just as well if the electric leads are reversed, it is good electrical practice to match up the wire designations on the chandelier so they match hot wire to hot wire and neutral wire to neutral wire. This way, if there are problems later on you can correct them quickly and safely. To connect these wires properly, you will need to know what to look for to distinguish a hot wire from a neutral wire

Unplug and Open Up the Chandelier

Turn off the breaker or remove the fuse that leads to the chandelier's electrical box. No matter how comfortable you are with electricity, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Remove the screws from the electrical box cover with a screwdriver. Remove the electrical box cover and set it aside. Loosen and remove the screws holding the crossbar in place. Place the screws in a different small bowl from the first set and remove the crossbar from the electrical box.

Expose the  Chandelier Wiring

Pull the wires out of the electrical box gently and check their colors. The switched hot wire will be red, neutral wires will be white, and any “always-on” hot wires will be black. Grounding wires will either be green or lack insulation altogether.

Check the wires on the chandelier. Many chandeliers are wired with a black hot wire and a white neutral wire. However, a chandelier with a lamp-style cord will have one of the following identifiers for the neutral wire: silver conductors, labeling on the insulation jacket, squared corners, or ribs and indentations on the insulation. The unmarked wire on this chandelier is the hot wire.